No change at the top

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Richard Peddie is a lot like a dog I used to have.

You can smack him on the nose and he still comes back the next day, looking for a pat on the head, as if nothing ever happened.

And if not a dog, he is at least mosquito-like.

He buzzes around, makes an annoying amount of noise, and you just can't get rid of him.

Peddie had the grand opportunity to remove himself yesterday from any decision-making in the hockey future of the Maple Leafs but he didn't have the self-awareness to do so.

Even with a history of dubious sporting achievements, Peddie has appointed himself to the two-man search committee (along with highly respected attorney, Gord Kirke) to identify the next president and general manager of the Maple Leafs.

The man who gave you John Ferguson and Rob Babcock is back at it again.

Cliff Fletcher, who signed on yesterday for 19 months of service with the Maple Leafs, the next four or so as interim general manager, is not on the search committee.

Peddie insists he must be part of the search as Chief Executive Officer of the company. He believes it's part of his role as CEO.

I say part of his role as CEO is to make certain that the best possible candidate is identified to become president and GM of the Leafs. And considering his past, Peddie should not be allowed anywhere near the president and GM, other than to say hello in the hallways.

You have to understand the hockey world.

After the summer dance with Scotty Bowman, the constant buzz of MLSEL interference, publicly referring to his hiring of John Ferguson as a "mistake," and the manner in which the eventual Ferguson firing dragged out, Peddie's name is trash in the hockey community.

It was mud before this season began. It's worse now.

But Fletcher, at the age of 72, comes from a completely different portfolio. He has so many friends in the hockey community it's almost impossible to count that high.

There are front-office executives throughout the NHL who got their start in the hockey business working for or with Fletcher. This has been his world for the past 35 years.

If Fletcher makes a call to inquire about a future president and GM, he makes that call with a lifetime of hockey credibility behind it. If Peddie makes the same call to the same candidate -- ask Bowman about his Peddie conversations -- and the hockey world snickers aloud.

This is Problem 1 for the Maple Leafs as they proceed forward. But they can't escape Peddie's fingerprints.

Problems 2, 3, 4 and maybe 5, are now Fletcher's to work out. He has inherited the fine mess that Ferguson left behind.

"We have big cap issues here," Fletcher said. "It may be more than $40 million US (in salaries committed to next year's players) ... There's going to have to be a lot of creativity. That's why I choose not to say anything right now.

"I want to talk to everyone in the organization and then get the feedback and start to move forward.

"Lou Lamoriello successfully got around his issues this year. We'll deal with that whatever way we have to, to make sure we have enough (cap) room to really improve our hockey club."

Fletcher has to play the role Wayne Embry played before Bryan Colangelo was hired by the Raptors. He has to find someone who is interested in Jalen Rose, or in his case Pavel Kubina or Jason Blake or Darcy Tucker.

"Hockey has changed since the lockout," Fletcher said. "You can't move things along as fast as you used to be able to ... We have 10 home games before the trade deadline. We'll see how things unfold."

He has contract issues and no-trade issues. He has a roster of players that may not be wanted by anyone else. He has to do a Mats Sundin sales job. He has a management team to meet and greet.

And he has exactly one month and three days to the trade deadline.

"Hopefully," said Fletcher, "I can make somewhat of a difference. You do what you can do. Hopefully it will benefit whoever comes in (to become president and GM)."

Fletcher has a track record, albeit from the past, but at least there is a man of credibility now running the Leafs.

The same cannot be said of half of the search committee. Shame on Richard Peddie, who hired and fired Ferguson, for not knowing when to back away himself.


Videos

Photos